Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Work experience with Meril Lynch

Not so ago I was deputed as a Consultant in Meril Lynch India Technology Services (MLITS), Chennai branch. With this blog I just want to share my working experience with MLITS. Below are some of the key points from day of joining to my exit. Read on to know.

No formal induction.

When I went to join MLITS I was received by the HR, my finger prints were taken and one of my team mates was called to take me to the respective place of work. Then it was all by myself. I was not given any formal induction about the team in which I will be working, who will be my reporting authority, what is the office timing, what are the office policies and other nitty gritties. Does MLITS have a formal induction program?

People say, first impression is the best impression. The first impression which I had was the worst impression. If this is the joining formalities then there is no use of having an HR, an office boy can do all these. It was a “hi and bye” kind of interaction with the HR. Even the finger prints were taken by an office boy, who also took me to the cafeteria for lunch. The office boy was very courteous throughout the whole process. He made sure that I was comfortable in a new environment (cafeteria) and also briefed me about MLITS. Office boy doing the job of an HR, great.


The management should try to wake up the “Hi Bye” (HR) team and educate them on how a new joinee should be inducted. There should be formal induction program where they should be briefed about the company policies, which project they will be working, brief history of the team, what they are working on, the reporting structure.

Running here and there for the smooth conduct of my day to day affairs.

Once I finished my so called HR formalities (is there any?) I came and sat in a chair with only the wall of my cabinet facing me blunt on my face and me staring back. One of my colleague was given the responsibility to get me what I need like system, ID card etc. Is it a developers work to complete all these formalities? Poor guy he was busy with his work and he was not aware of how to proceed with these requirement as this is not his work. So he started the frantic search to get me the system, ID card etc. After going from room to room and floor to floor I got my system. Is it a government office to run from floor to floor to get something which should have been provided by default. The system was given and with a remote desktop access with no required softwares installed. Only the basic softwares were there. Then getting temporary ID, that nearly took 3 to 4 days as the person who is supposed to issue IDs was on leave. If someone goes on leave a replacement is not provided? Maybe it was there but we were not able to find one. At last when we found the replacement, here comes the other problem, I need to raise some ID request. The funniest part is that I cannot raise the request as I don't have an NT id. So my colleague raised it.

Getting ID.

After raising ID request I was called for the photo session. Photo was taken and I was informed that mail will be sent once the photo ID is ready. Even after 4 working days there was no mail. When enquired about the same the responsible person informs me that there was a problem in the photo previously taken so the id was not generated. For god sake don't you inform the person if something goes wrong, only when the affected person goes in person and asks you give the response? Is this professionalism?Again I went through the photo session and was again informed you will get a mail when the card is ready. God knows when that mail will land in my inbox. I wonder if our great Indian snail mail works faster than this. For more than 2 weeks no mail.

Getting System.

After the remote desktop was given I had to raise another request to get the required software. Since the provided system didn't had the required disk space to install the software the whole system was replaced with a new system. I was happy that at last I got a system to work. Here comes the next problem. I don't have an admin rights to perform my tasks.Come on man a developer doesn't have admin rights? Each developer should have admin rights to his system as over the course of time he may have to install various softwares/addons for the smooth conduct of his work.

Getting Admin rights.

Again I don’t know whom to approach for the admin rights. With the help of my colleague I was able to send a mail to get the admin rights. It took nearly 2 to 3 days to get my admin rights approved. Installation, admin rights what next? Huh…...

One thing to highlight here is the approval process. Admin rights was approved by at least 4 people, final approval came from the Director of MLITS India. A simple admin rights for a developer being approved by the Director of MLITS, oh this is the height of bureaucracy.

Temporary ID expired.

The dramatic day came when the temporary ID provided stopped working. The securities are not ready to allow me inside the office as my card is not working. What the heck? Am I a criminal or what? Then again I don't know whom to approach. Then some how found out and informed the concerned person and my card was activated. God knows when my temporary card is going to expire again?


Processes are meant to make life of people comfortable and not miserable. The processes in MLITS, where new joinees are left fending for themselves is pathetic. Atleast the process should be made in a way that new joinees are not left to run from pillar to post. The “Hi Bye” team which is supposed to coordinate with the different department and provide all the things required for a new joinee, is currently doing nothing other than, saying a Hi and then a Bye. The joining torture for a new joinee in MLITS should be made a smooth affair. The “Hi Bye” team should start working on smoothening the joining process by arranging everything needed for a new joinee. It should not be left to some poor developer, if that is the case then there is no need of having a HR team, oops sorry the “Hi Bye”, team. The problem here is not making the joining process smooth it is more than that. The “Hi Bye” team should formulate an induction program, understand the goals of a new joinee and provide the necessary environment for the same. They should be cordial and try to bring in a trust in new joinees, that for any problem they can approach the HR team. An “Hi and Bye” approach won’t bring faith in the HR team. Also there should be a checklist which sees whether all the required things are delivered to the new joinee. Software needs of different team should also be prepared and should come pre installed in the system with all the required rights. The red tapism should be cut down.

Is it an one off experience with me alone?

Totally disoriented by these joining experience I asked the existing employees whether they also had the same experience. The answer was a big yes. Also I asked some other new joinees about their experience with the joining process, they also said the same story. We all are sailing in the same boat. The joining experience with MLITS is simple, just say hi and bye to the HR. Isn’t it so simple?

After nearly about a months time I settled down with all the required things for the smooth conduct of my work. I think one month is too long a time to settle down. Its a criminal waste of time, money and resource. Hoping that the, first, worst impression of MLITS will give way for some great experience with respect to work environment and learning opportunities, didn’t last for long. We will first see the work environment related prob I faced. So here it is.

Cell phones always ring somewhere or the other.

The bay which was allotted for me had this problem, mobile phones use to ring somewhere or the other and that also throughout the day. The bay nearly had 100 people, so one can imagine the condition. I use to think, come on guys no one has told the employees of MLITS that mobiles have to be kept in silent mode. This is the basic ethics which everyone has to follow but in MLITS no one follows this. This basic norm is blatantly broken and people just flaunt their ringtones with no remorse of what so ever. Office is not the place to show off your funky ringtone. To my relief MLITS decided to bring in a norm wherein no multimedia mobile phones will be allowed in office premises. To be frank I was the most happiest person when I came to know that cam mobiles will not be allowed but my happiness was short lived. People replaced their high end mobiles with the primitive models which have horrible ringtones. When requested to one person to put the mob in silent mode, bang came the reply he can't because no one else does that. Most of the guys never bother to keep their mobiles in silent mode but ladies are just doing that.

People are always yapping over phones.

Ringtones are the only problem? No, once someone receives calls they just yap and have no concern that others are sitting nearby and working. Every desk is provided with a desk phone and some people go to the extend where as soon as they come and sit in their place even before switching on the system they make a call, using office phone, and start yapping for long hours. When it comes to talking over phone ladies are just outrageous. Most of the guys just mind their voice but ladies, they just make sure that the whole offices hears what they are talking. I have seen many a times some are always over phone talking to their loved ones and having nice time. If they are spending 8 hours in office most probably 6 hours are spent over phone. The romance which is done over phone is ridiculous. I would go to extend to say that MLITS is the best place to have romance over phone rather than a place to work. Its pathetic. Office phones are used to talk to near and dear ones and that also long hours at a stretch. May be this is one of the employee benefits provided by MLITS to its employees. MLITS employees will be the ones who spend very few in terms of their mob bill as they make all their calls through office phone.

Dialing phone numbers in speaker mode.

Another basic ethic which people never follow is that they don’t keep even the desk phone in silent mode. They keep the desk phone in speaker mode and dial the numbers. One can hear the dial tone and beep sound when a number is dialed. Its horrible. People make sure that the phone is in speaker mode as long as the person at the other end is picking it up.

Meetings over phone.

Weekly team meeting with onsite manager is taken from their respective places or from a team leads (TL) place on speaker phone. This is another most annoying thing, when there is a call guys/gals sit in their place and attend the meeting with their onsite managers and all of them will have their desk phones in speaker mode. If this is not the case then there is another team which will form a circle around their TL and take the call on speaker phone. Oh god don't these TLs have the basic courtesy or common sense that their call is at the expense of others. They just make sure that the whole office is hearing what they are working on. My basic question is who the hell wants to know what you are doing? Why the hell are there so many meeting rooms, aren't they meant for conducting these kind of calls? Don't these guys/gals know this? I have not seen a single team making use of the meeting rooms for their meeting conversation. Something which is very rare to see. MLITS has got lots of small and big meeting room with speaker phones in each and no one bothers to use them. Great use of the resources.

Shouting on top of their voice.

This is especially applicable to ladies, when two ladies talk they just talk so loud its really horrendous. An e.g. of this is two ladies just behind my bay, sitting at two ends, the moment they enter the office and see each other they shout on top of their voice and start their chat, they discuss about their kid’s school and other stuffs. Nothing productive. The so called ladies do more than that, just sitting in their place they shout to their team mates, this shouting is to get the team mate’s updates. Don't they have mChat, OfficeCommunicator or outlook installed in their system to do this? Is this to show off to others that they are doing their job?

Once, a mob, just one or two bays across my bay, started their group discussion. This discussion was all about some movie, making fun of team mates and other useless stuff. The whole group continued their ruckus for nearly 45 mins to one hour. Everyone in the floor were just staring at the group with scorn but no one bothered to tell them that they are taking the whole office for a ride. Even people sitting inside their respective rooms (I think they are higher officials) were only mock spectators of the event. Is everyone scared or what? Why there is a cafeteria in each floor? If a group wants to have some good time why can't they make use of these facility? Why everyone wants to enjoy their cup of tea at the expense of some benign souls? Another great use of available resources.

Sounds coming from keyboards.

Another annoying thing is the keyboards. Again here also ladies are extraordinary. They just type with such speed and strength, the noise can be heard for miles. Till two weeks back I had to bear with a lady', sitting just opposite to me, typing noise. Whenever she hits the enter key its like as if she is hitting something which should not survive the fatal blow and the sound which comes out is!!! Just two weeks back two ladies (X & Y) were allotted place near to my place and, boy oh boy, one among them, Y, is really outrageous in typing. When she types the speed and the noise she creates is annoying and disturbing to the core. The whole bay was flabbergasted. But did anyone raise any concern? No, not even a single soul did anything, they just looked at her in astonishment for 5 minutes and carried on with their work. The look was as if, oh, another disturbance added to the bunch of other nuisance already existing in MLITs and they carried on with their work. So here again I was not able to bear the nuisance, so I thought I will ask the lady, X, just sitting near to me (hoping to get some support from her so that I can request this Y to type with less noise), who sits near to this lady Y, whether this noise is disturbing? The expression which X gave, was really surprising to me, it was like how dare you say that this noise is disturbance. She replied, no it is not. Now my head started turning round and round, I started thinking is something wrong with me or these people are gone mad?


The inefficiency of the “Hi Bye” team shows in the environment issues. The “Hi Bye” team should educate the employees on what a professional environment is all about. The “Hi Bye” team should have regular interaction with the employees and understand their problems and try to find a solution for the same. The above problems highlighted are the basic ethics of a professional environment, which if the employees are not aware of then the HR team should make them aware of. The HR team is oblivious of these issues, so to bridge this gap they have to regularly interact with the different team members. Also the employees should be encouraged to make use of the meeting rooms and other facilities which are lying idle and thereby avoiding disturbance to others.

People are scared.

On seeing these not so pleasant things I asked some of my colleagues why no one raises any concern about these things. Bang came the reply from one of the female counterpart that if you raise anything against ladies they have a nice weapon in their kitty. If for e.g. anyone raises any complaint against the opposite sex, then, they will charge you against harassment and guys fear this a lot. I was even told that one guy was thrown out of MLITs like this. If I am not wrong, while joining MLITS I read somewhere that MLITS strives to provide a fair and biased free work environment. If what one of my colleague said is true, which according to my experience is to some extend true, then I don't think the management is any way closer to providing that.


The sole reason for why employees of MLITS are scared and which I found out by having discussion with the employees, is the existing harassment policies against women. According to MLITS employees MLITS has a big list of harassment policies which every employee signs at the time of joining which lists what is considered harassment according to USA norms. I hope the top management would have studied in their business education that one policy which may work in one country won’t work in another. The same policy which works great in one country may not work in another. It can back fire if implemented without understanding the cultural difference and other aspects of a country. That’ what exactly happened in MLITS Chennai. The harassment policy which is valid in USA may not work here. The simple reason is the cultural difference. In India women are respected more, they are revered. I think in India 99.9999 percent of men won’t even dare to do even a single think pointed out as harassment. So to provide a free and fair environment the management should rework the policy and it should be fair towards both the gender. The team leads and others who lead team should be given proper team/man management training. Trainings will not be successful without proper appraisal. So regular feedback should be taken based on the training.

One soldier, multiple general.

As I started my work I had to report to not one but 4 guys. When I asked one of my colleagues, what is this I had to give updates to so many, he said MLITS is a place where you have this unique experience where you will have one soldier and multiple generals to report to. Also he said in a funny way that, if there is war one thing is for sure the soldier will not survive the war. :) Here is the list of people to whom I was reporting. I had a local guy sitting just behind my cubicle to whom I need to report about my leaves and other things. Then I had a guy sitting in London who is the onsite manager to whom I need to do a scrum call daily. Then another guy who is the support manager again sitting in London to whom I should report weekly about support issues. And finally, another guy in London whose designation I don’t know but initially he was in India and took a transfer and left for London.

Most of the developers use to make fun of this last guy, saying when they came for the interview in MLITS this guy had told them that be prepared you will be sent onshore as soon as you join and make sure you have a proper passport and other stuffs. But in the end this guy left for London leaving the developers to rot in MLITS. Also I would like to point out a big blunder of this guy for which in another company he would have been sacked. On a fine day this guy sends a mail to most of the employees in MLITS with attachment containing sensitive data like what each consultant working in MLITS is being paid as salary. Did he think how it is going to affect the moral of the employees? Within one day of receiving the mail the employees of MLITS started cribbing, as usual, why the hell these consultants are paid such? Why we are not paid on par with these consultants? A mail demoralizing the employees.


First recommendation, MLITS is blatantly breaking one of the most important management rules that is “there should not be any dual subordination”. This principle proposes that subordinates should report to only one superior. This type of hierarchy should be implemented across the organization. Their should be a mechanism where the management guys are made accountable for their actions. They should not be allowed to give false promises.

How did I survive this trying environment?

To survive in this boisterous environment I found a solution with the help of my iPod. I started using my iPod and to some extend that helped me to keep the noise at bay. Long time listening to iPod showed its effect in the form of pain in the ears. When consulted with a doctor he advised me not to use iPod with a statutory warning: “If you continue the iPod usage it can lead to deafness”. This was very cruel advice, I thought. Now how will I survive in MLITS.

Domain training.

One thing which happens frequently in MLITS is domain training. At any point in a month there will be lots of domain training going on. The topics are based on various financial aspects. So how is the training conducted? Suppose you have a training scheduled for tomorrow which will last for say 2 or 3 hours you will get a meeting request for the same today. This will make us scrambling here and there as we are not given enough time to make amends for the lost time due to the sudden training. Because of this either we skip the training or we have to sit those 2 or 3 hours and work extra hours to meet our project deadlines. The most horrible part of the training is that there will be no break at all for 3 hours. An average person can concentrate for only max 40 to 50 minutes at a stretch and this point is nowhere taken into consideration while giving a presentation. Two or three days training is being squeezed in one day. You wont believe, there was this one training which I attended where the presenter tried to run us through a 72 page verbose slide in 2 and half hours. It was torture to the core. Reading the whole slide would have taken more than 4 or 5 hours, but the presenter had this belief that he can coerce everything in just 2 and half hour. End result many slides were skipped. After 2 or 3 days of the training I was discussing with some colleagues of MLITS and they were making fun the way trainings are conducted. They were saying that they have given feedback saying that it would be great if the training could be conducted in 2 days and instead they have extended the session time and completed the training in one day.

Coding horror.

I was assigned a project and I checked some 2 or 3 projects from the repository. I was totally taken aback by the way the project was coded. All the best practice of the industry was thrown to oblivion. No coding standards, no best practice etc. Few of the great horrors in coding which I found in all the checked out projects are as follows.

Datasets bluntly assigned to session variables. In yet some other places datasets are assigned to the viewstates. Sql queries are embedded into the html code. What else a hacker needs? No exception handling. No normalization in database. I think MLITS will ask what’s normalization?

The above points are only a few coding horrors. I was totally surprised to see such things like SQL statements embedded in HTML code. MLITS is working on sensitive data like managing the assets of millionaires and these so called coding horrors if fallen in wrong hands can create havoc. I couldn’t believe, such a big disregard to normalization when people are working with huge databases. I would suggest that the management should appoint some independent experts and ask them to look into these issues. I am sure they will be shocked by their findings. Another option which can save their nose would be to train the employees about these best practices.

There was this particular instance where people were brainstorming on how to improve the performance of the server. They found the solution by upgrading the RAM. I would say this solution will solve their problem not for long because the main problem lies in the code and not in the server. If the server hangs with 1o user now then in future it will hang for 20 users unless and until something is not done with the code.

I have sent these recommendation to one of the software architect, the reply which I got was ridiculous. The reply was something like this “I assume that people are aware of all these best practices”. How can you assume all these things? I just dumped my idea of making changes which was out of control. If I had to make changes then the whole project had to be refactored which I don’t think the management will allow me to do. Its sad that these best practices are ignored when people are working with huge database and with sensitive financial data.


There are lots of domain training going on but training on technical aspects is lacking. For god sake, MLITS is a technical organization and more importance should be given to the technical aspects as well. My interaction with many people in MLITS with nearly 4 + years of experience on an average helped me understand many of their technical weakness. People are not aware of design patterns, basic OOPS concept, concept of SQL injection, normalization, in depth knowledge of the technology etc. One guy went to the extend of saying that patterns make things complicated. In addition to domain training, stress should be given to technical training as well. Each team should do a technical brain storming which I have never seen happening. Only when you share what you have done with your team mates then only you can learn from one another what’ best and what’ not. Team discussion should be encouraged. Also trainings should be conducted in a more humane way.

Did I do anything to find a solution?

Thinking that I may get some solution by highlighting my plight with my superiors I told the pathetic situation I am in, to my local reporting authority. You wont believe the solution given to me, he told me to adjust with it. I asked him don’t you feel this as a disturbance? To this he said I am used to it and even if I raise this as an issue there will be no solution coming forth. I asked him why don’t you highlight this to the HR team? HR team, ahh the most useless department in MLITS. Was the reply. Also he asked me what kind of interaction you had with the HR team? I said its just a hi and bye kind of. So do you expect me to highlight these issues with such a “Hi Bye” team, was his reply. Even after getting these answers I repeatedly highlighted my plight 2 or 3 times. The same reply.

After my interaction with this dejected soul I interacted with some other colleagues about this, you believe it or not, ditto came the reply from all about the HR team (a good for nothing team which is not bothered about the welfare of the employees).

Next I wrote a mail to the director and keeping some of my onsite managers in loop, highlighting my plight. I was called to discuss why I have sent such a mail. I was happy at last I will be getting some solution to my problems. With positive frame of mind I went to the HR head of MLITS. We had a discussion for nearly 2 hours and the whole discussion was about how can you send such a mail. Not even a single point highlighted in the mail was discussed. After sometime I got the point, she was trying to put the blame on me and was not interested in finding any solution to my probs. The HR room had some 4 people sitting and there also the same things were prevailing like, no mobile was in silent mode, people yelling on top of their voice etc. Within few minutes I got the whole point, I have raised the issue to the wrong person. Actually, here, I was the odd man out and I was trying to change something which was prevalent as a culture of MLITS.

Then after 4 hours the Director of MLITS joins through call conferencing from Mumbai. The discussion again starts and came to square one. How can I send such a mail? Finding different ways of putting blame on me. It was real torture. These people didn’t allow me to go for my lunch and instead gave me some biscuits to munch on and that also when I asked permission to go and have my lunch. The torture continued for nearly 2 and half hour with not even a single point in my mail taken for discussion. The HR from her end said she normally walks through the aisle and she never found any probs. I would like to say one thing here, sitting at the comfort of her room and once in a while loitering around the office wont give you the real picture. You have to be there at the thick of the action to understand what are the real problems faced by people. Its similar to our politicians who once in a while visit their constituency and see what they want to see and make themselves believe that everything is fine and going great. But in reality the people of the constituency are suffering without even having access to basic amenities. I would say the same is the case with MLITS. Anyway the end result and conclusion of the discussion, I was at fault and I shouldn’t have raised such issues. They made me feel as if I had made a big mistake and nothing is wrong with MLITS environment.

What I finally concluded from all these is that no one wants to bring any change in the MLITS environment. People in the higher echelon of the management are in a trance and we know people who are in trance, its nearly impossible to wake them up and make them realize the ground realities. My advice to these kind of people is that please wake up and do a reality check. If they didn’t believe what I have highlighted, then, they have a great weapon in their kitty to check the authenticity of what I said. Cameras are installed all over in MLITS, they can go through the videos and see for themselves and wake themselves up from their slumber.

One cheap act of the HR head which I would like to highlight is that she forced me to write a mail which was fully doctored by her saying that the “Hi Bye” team was not aware of the happening and that I have not highlighted any of the issues highlighted in the mail to them. What a great way to save her position in the organization. A great e.g. of selfishism where the bigger aspect of the whole issue is scraped by a cheap act.


When you are at the top of the management a certain degree of dignity and patience is expected, which I didn’t find in either the HR head or the director of MLITS. They didn’t have the patience to listen to what I had to say instead they were holding on to their beliefs. They didn’t even bother to validate the authenticity of what I have raised. A normal man with common sense would have first validated my concerns and would have said I will look into your concerns and see what I can do. But the management in MLITS lacked that basic courtesy and never took any of the points raised as concerns for discussion and instead bullied the person who raised the concerns. So my humble recommendation is to have the patience to listen and understand what are employees concerns, then try to validate it and then if it is validated try to resolve the problem. Even if the concern is not valid try to make the person understand where he went wrong and his concerns are not well founded.

Also the “Hi Bye” team has got a big responsibility on their shoulders to change the mentality of the existing employees who thing the HR team is of no use. The whole HR team should be more pro active and work hard to change their present image. Its a tough task and the “Hi Bye” team may have to work overtime. Also the existing management team is in a trance and they should wake up and realize the ground reality.

Lucky to escape from MLITS.

I was lucky enough to get a call as soon as I came out of the fruitless discussion from my previous employer that they are starting the company all over again in a different name and will I be interested in joining back. Will I be? Of course I will be.

With that I left MLITS for good and joined my old company where I got back the professional environment which I was used to. Now I am not the odd man out and doing what I am great at, developing extensible application with the best practices in the industry.

Did I regret for what I did?

After the nearly 6 hours of long torture (meeting with head of “Hi Bye” team and Director of MLITS) I felt bad that, oh my god my concerns fell on deaf hears. But regret, no way. I didn’t do anything wrong by highlighting the pathetic environment prevailing in MLITS. But I have remorse for MLITS that people sitting at top are not aware of the ground realities. I did my best to put the spotlight where it should be but people who are capable of taking some action on these issues are not willing to do anything. The only regret which I have is I wasted my time and energy discussing with these incapable people.

Good things about MLITS.

It will not be good if I don’t say something positives about MLITS. Though there is not much to write about, but yeah I would like to commend my colleagues especially my team mates for being so nice and helping out in every stage of the chaos, that is MLITS. One advice to my colleagues, stop cribbing among yourselves about the pathetic environment. Raise issues and wake up the authorities from their slumber, rather trance, which will not be over until and unless you wake them. If not most of you will find yourselves as the odd man out in a very professional environment and will struggle badly to cope up with things. Other than that MLITS has got an excellent infrastructure, high speed internet, numerous well equipped meeting room, though no one is making good use of it, and spacious cafeteria. What’s the use of having great infrastructure without having able guys to make use of it. :(